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BHUBANESWAR: Two main detractors of Orissa Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik — the former president of Nationalist Congress Party’s Orissa unit Bijay Mohapatra and the former Union Minister Dilip Ray — joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday.
The two leaders were welcomed to the BJP by the party’s national president Rajnath Singh when they called on him at his residence in New Delhi.
Mr. Mohapatra and Mr. Ray had met BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate L.K. Advani in New Delhi on Sunday and discussed about their joining in the party.
The joining of Mr. Mohapatra and Mr. Ray assumes importance as the BJP was making all-out efforts to strengthen its base to take on the BJD and the Congress in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the State.
The BJP had been attracting many of Mr. Patnaik’s political opponents since breaking of its alliance with the BJD on March 7 over sharing of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats between them. BJD Lok Sabha MP Archana Nayak had joined the party on Saturday. Both Mr. Mohapatra and Mr. Ray had played a pivotal role in the formation of the BJD in 1998. Mr. Ray had also played to a key role in making the BJP an ally of the regional party.
According to sources in the BJP, both Mr. Mohapatra and Mr. Ray will campaign for the party nominees across the State and expose Mr. Patnaik. Mr. Mohapatra was likely to contest the polls, but Mr. Ray may not enter the fray.
While Mr. Ray had left the BJD after he was denied Rajya Sabha ticket in 2002, Mr. Mohapatra had turned Mr. Patnaik’s foe when he was denied BJD ticket to fight the Assembly polls in 2000.
After quitting the BJD, Mr. Mohapatra had formed the Orissa Gana Parishad and the two of the candidates of the outfit were elected to the Assembly in 2004. He had merged the OGP with the NCP in 2007.
Mr. Mohapatra resigned as the president of the NCP Orissa unit on March 19 after two party legislators voted in favour of Mr. Patnaik during the trust vote in the State Assembly on March 11 as per the decision of the party’s Central leadership.
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